Harrisburg’s Grand Review of Black Troops

The Grand Review for Union armies took place in Washington, D.C., in late May 1865. The veterans marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past President Andrew Johnson amid the cheers of thousands of grateful citizens. Conspicuously absent, however, were the regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Despite the fact that more than 180,000 African Americans, including 11 regiments from Pennsylvania, had served in the Union Army, they were not invited to join the celebratory procession.

Black veterans held a parade in Harrisburg on November 14, 1865, however. Thomas Morris Chester, Harrisburg's most distinguished African American, served as grand marshal. The parade formed at State and Filbert Streets (now Soldier's Grove). The soldiers marched through Harrisburg to the South Front Street residence of U.S. Senator and former secretary of war Simon Cameron. Cameron reviewed the troops from his front porch and thanked them for their service to the nation.

Other speakers included Octavius V. Catto, an African American educator and USCT recruiter from Philadelphia; William Howard Day, abolitionist and clergyman; and Brevet Major General Joseph B. Kiddoo, former commander of the 22nd Regiment USCT. Pennsylvania was the only state to thus honor black soldiers who had helped save the Union.